Medical Research

Cannabinoids and OCD

Written by Lydia Kariuki

Can cannabinoids help with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Cannabinoid-based therapies have taken center stage as a new point of interest in clinical research. So far, there are thousands of clinical studies and case reports investigating the effects of cannabinoids on conditions such as cancer, anorexia, HIV & AIDS, Alzheimer’s, COPD, migraine, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and asthma, among others.

When it comes to OCD, many cannabis enthusiasts can agree that this has not been on the cards.

As the name suggests, OCD is a condition that is an obsession to perform repetitive tasks in a manner that the rest of the population construes to be “abnormal.” People who are too conscious about cleanliness or neatness, for example, often joke that they are OCD. Many may not know that OCD is a disabling condition that may prevent one from leading an everyday life.

But can cannabinoids really help with OCD?

OCD has been associated with a high degree of functional impairment. Common symptoms of OCD include fear of dirt contamination, obsession with symmetry, fear of uncertainty, aggression, and fear of shaking hands, among others.

Where does cannabis come in?

Cannabinoids are bioactive compounds that exert therapeutic benefits by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS maintains homeostasis by modulating different processes such as pain control, moods, and memory.

Have there been any studies linking cannabinoids with OCD?

So far, there are no clinical studies that have been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating OCD.

However, recent research has shown that cannabinoids can help mitigate anxiety and other symptoms related to OCD. [1]

In this study, the ECS showed to play a significant role in regulating fear, stress, and repetitive behaviors.

The researchers went through PubMed studies from inception to 2018, looking for studies with cannabis, cannabinoids, or the ECS that were linked or anxiety or OC spectrum illnesses. About 150 articles were referenced in the initial draft.

The researchers hypothesized that “the ECS may impact the neural circuitry underlying OCD and could be a target for novel treatments.”

They concluded that the ECS plays a crucial role in the underlying pathology and managing OCD symptoms. [1]

Additionally, anecdotal reports have shown that specific cannabinoids such as CBD can help relieve anxiety and insomnia, which are common symptoms in OCD.

To date, there is no definitive medical cure for this condition. The federal drug agency (FDA has approved the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to manage OCD. Unfortunately, SSRIs have a couple of setbacks. For example, they may increase agitation and anxiety, which makes them counter-productive in some cases. They also require a prolonged duration to act before patients can fully appreciate their effects.

Such studies have shown the potential that needs further investigation.


Image Source


Reilly R. Kayser, Ivar Snorrason, Margaret Haney, Francis S. Lee, and H. Blair Simpson. (2019). Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.  Volume: 4 Issue 2 pp 77-87.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki